Sharp is known for its Aquos LCD TVs, but it also offers some non-Aquos models, including the 17-inch LL-M17W1U, which comes in a kitchen-friendly white color for a list price of $699. Aside from offering decent TV performance, what sets this set apart from other small-screen LCD TVs is its performance as a PC monitor--a role it excels in. Owners of white Apple Macintoshes who are looking for a matching monitor should take special note.
Measuring 14.7 by 17 by 7.2 inches (HWD) and weighing 11 pounds, the LL-M17W1U is a sleek, spartan-looking wide-screen LCD TV. On the back, you'll find a handle, which makes the unit easy to tote from room to room in your house or apartment--or to take on a road trip. The included remote is simple to use and includes dedicated buttons for each of the set's inputs--a convenient feature that allows you to go quickly from watching a DVD to watching TV to playing a video game to viewing your computer's desktop. There's also a button for raising or lowering the monitor's brightness. From a cosmetic standpoint, the only issue we had was that the screen's nonremovable protective screen cover does give off some glare. It's not a major hindrance, but it's definitely noticeable, especially in brightly lit rooms.
Unlike some of its kind, the LL-M17W1U cannot display progressive-scan DVD or HDTV via its video inputs. Otherwise, it has the full gamut of standard LCD TV features, including PIP (picture-in-picture, which allows you to watch TV or another video source in a small window while using the rest of the screen as a PC monitor), closed captioning, parental controls, and basic picture and aspect-ratio controls (standard, zoom, and wide). On the connectivity front, the LL-M17W1U offers a set of interlaced component, S-Video, and composite-video jacks, as well an RGB connector for your PC (sorry, no DVI). You can connect the set to your PC's audio output via a back-panel 1/8-inch minijack.
To test the LL-M17W1U's performance, we hooked up our DVD player and made some basic picture adjustments using the Digital Video Essentials disc. We quickly noticed that the Sharp displayed relatively deep blacks for an LCD, although it was missing some blacker-than-black detail. Its colors were rather impressive, especially the primary color green, which looked less limey and more piney, if you will, than on many other LCDs we've seen. Unfortunately for a set that won't work with a progressive-scan DVD player, the LL-M17W1U does not have 2:3 pull-down processing, so you will see artifacts in DVDs. For example, as the camera pans over Meryl Streep's desk in the Superbit DVD Adaptation, the edge of a book goes jagged. We also noticed quite a bit of moving pixel noise in dark areas, such as the New York skyline at night. On the other hand, the greens of the swamps looked nice and deep.
As noted, the LL-M17W1U can take advantage of its HD-capable resolution (1,280x768) only via the PC input; feeding it high-def via component gets you nothing but squiggly lines. Unless you stretch the picture when watching standard-definition TV, it will appear as a 4:3 image between gray bars. With vertical bars, the image measures only 14.5 inches (diagonal), which is pretty small.
As we noted in the introduction, this set gave its strongest performance as a PC monitor. So while it looks right at home in a kitchen or a bathroom, to get the most out of it, you'd ideally throw a computer into the mix. Of course, how or where you want to use this display is up to you. Given its performance level and styling, as long as you don't need high-def capability, the LL-M17W1U is priced right compared with other 17-inch wide-screen models.